Matthew 5:33-48—”Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Jesus continues to authoritatively preach today. Some of the words of Jesus in our text have become very well known – even if they aren’t directly quoted from Jesus. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” “Turn the other cheek.” “Go the extra mile.” “Love your enemies.” These sayings have become clichés and have lost most if not all of their bite.
The typical response we have to these commands from Jesus is to undermine them. We try to find excuses to get around, over, or under them. We avoid them at all costs thinking, “Jesus couldn’t really expect me to be so gullible as to turn the other cheek. Jesus couldn’t really expect me and that vulnerable, could He? I’d get walked all over. Jesus couldn’t really mean to give to everyone who begs and wants to borrow, could He? If I followed Jesus’ commands here, I’d be beaten, naked, and broke. Jesus must be speaking figuratively here, right? Jesus knows that I have a right to protect myself. He knows that I have a right to my own things.”
But then Jesus has got you right where He wants you. You must remember that you are a creature, created by God, and as such you have no rights. Creatures do not have rights, plain and simple. And we resist being creatures because creatures do not have rights. In its simplest form, sin is denying our creatureliness, and making little gods out of ourselves. We, discontent with our creatureliness want to be like God. We put our fear, love, and trust in ourselves.
That is why so much of the world around us loves to accept the false teachings of the big bang, evolution, and things like that. If we are not creatures, then we are our own gods. Creatures are not their own; they are the property of their Creator. The sooner we learn that and live that out, the better.
Once we understand the truth that we are given everything – and I mean everything – as a gift, all sorts of things fall into place.
Creatures receive everything as a gift from the Creator. Your life is not your own. Your body is not your own. Your things are not your own. They are all gifts given to you by God the Father.
Based on this fact, Jesus can command you, “Do not take an oath at all. Do not take an oath by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool. Do not take an oath by your head because you cannot do even as simple a thing as make one single hair white or black.”
Jesus can command you, “Do not resist the one who is evil. If anyone wrongs you, remain vulnerable and turn the other cheek. Your cheeks are not your own anyway.”
People will take advantage of you. You will persecuted for living this way. Persecution will come in many different forms. You might not be nailed to a cross or thrown to wild animals for living this way. You might not be placed in front a firing squad. Christians in other lands have that persecution, but you will be persecuted here too. The persecution of death might be easier to face than the constant ridicule and scorn and loathsome pity that the world throws at you. You are called by God to fight the battle against the world and Satan in the persecutions that do come your way.
Jesus says that when people take advantage of you, when they persecute you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Love the people who hate you because if you only love the people who love you, then you will only love yourself, and you have fallen back into the error of being your own god.
In the final words of our text, Jesus sums it all up, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Pause here:
This translation of “perfect” leaves something to be desired. When Jesus hung on the cross, before He gave up His spirit, He cried out the same word. There it gets translated, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). The word means “whole,” “total,” “complete.” If you want to show that you are sons and daughters of God the Father, which He has said you are, you must be “complete.”
You will never be this on your own. You will always be found lacking. But if God the Father is your Father – and He declares that He is your Father – then He will make you, His child, whole, total, and complete. God does not have children that are anything less than complete. God will make you complete in Christ. He does this now by faith alone that He gives you. This faith receives the Word of God and says, “Yes, this Word of God, both Law and Gospel, is true and good.”
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the founder (beginning) and perfecter (same word, completer) of your faith. He endured the cross that you and I nailed Him to as His sinful enemies.
When you, sinner, struck Jesus on the cheek, He turned His back to you and you whipped Him. But Jesus didn’t stop there. After He was whipped, He turned His hands and feet to sinners and received nails, then He turned His side and was pierced. Jesus turned His whole life over to you, His enemy, and was killed. While you did all of that, He prayed, “Father forgive them.” All of this He did in love for you so that you could be children of your Father who is in heaven. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.